Fathoming Fertility: When there's still no bun in the oven

Friday, February 26, 2016 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

Rich or poor, single or married, male or female, every single person on earth started out as a baby – a blessed bundle of joy, effortlessly stealing the show with every innocent coo and cry. Family, after all, is where the promise of a bright future begins. But because of fertility problems, there is always one couple out there who craves a baby more than anything but has a very slim chance of having one.

Helping build familiesDoctors and patients get together and discuss fertility problems to share hope during a seminar on infertility.

Infertility: Keeping mum about not becoming a mom

Infertility remains a common problem, affecting about one out of every ten couples. Surprisingly, many don’t want to talk about it.

“There are many barriers to treatment, including embarrassment and concerns about treatment safety. About 50 percent are also unaware about where treatment centers are located,” explains Dr. Rudie Frederick Mendiola, President of the Philippine Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (PSREI), during a seminar on fertility awareness.

Fact: Many couples are embarassed about their fertility issues.

Even after overcoming the unfair stigma of infertility, many couples wax pragmatic about getting help. “Seventy-seven percent believe it’s expensive [to get treatment for infertility]. Forty percent believe employers don’t allow time-off for fertility treatments.”

Fertility treatments: Is artificial unethical?

Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, two procedures that help infertile couples conceive, have been consistently under fire for alleged ethical reasons. Dr. Mendiola believes it is time for an open-minded viewpoint. “[Being] ethical means doing the right thing. As long as we do it properly, [then it’s] okay. It’s not a business – we are helping people to conceive.”

In the Philippines, unlike in other countries, the husband’s sperm is used for the above procedures, protecting the integrity of the family unit, Dr. Mendiola explains. “Everything comes from the couple – we don’t do third-party insemination.”


How much will it take to get help for infertility? There is no fixed rate, says Dr. Anthony Marc Ancheta, a fertility expert who received training locally and abroad. “It depends on the amount of meds that you give. In my practice, the ballpark figure depends on the age range. The younger [the patient], the fewer the meds.

“If you are less than 35 years old, from the time you start a program until pregnancy, you may spend anywhere from 300 to 350 thousand. Above that age, it’s about 400-450 thousand.”

“Minimal stimulation costs less than 270 thousand pesos,” adds Dr. Mendiola. But to couples who want nothing more than their very own baby, the money doesn’t matter.

Edwin Miranda“To us, it’s not about the cost. We are just happy we have little Marcus,” shares Edwin Miranda, 35-year-old father to a little boy conceived with Dr. Ancheta’s help.

Making the decision

“Make sure you get investigated by the proper doctor: a board certified infertility specialist,” advises Dr. Ancheta.

Miranda familyMeet Edwin Miranda’s beautiful family. This baby would not have been born without help from fertility experts.

Choosing – and sticking to – an accredited fertility expert is one of the most important decisions a couple who wants to conceive has to make. Prematurely shifting from one doctor to another can delay success, Dr. Ancheta explains.

“It’s the mayonnaise jar effect. You get different people to open a jar of mayo and believe that the one to succeed is the strongest, when in fact it was a cumulative effort.”

He believes that with fertility experts around the country more than capable of using the available assisted reproductive technology, it is no longer a question of possibilities, but of one’s readiness to give it a try. “[It] is [no longer] about whether or not you can get pregnant. The question is, are you ready to get pregnant?

“It is a physical and psychological investment more than a financial [one]. If [you are] not ready, don’t rush it – things happen at the most unexpected time.”

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!